Smart phones are becoming a standard across creative and consumer communities and their locative properties are beginning to change the way that we navigate physical and social spaces. Platforms such as the Apple iPhone and Google Android that contain GPS (Global Positioning Systems) technology are becoming a powerful research platform for exploring rural and urban landscapes.

At present the technology tends to provide a series of primary services; satellite navigation to allow users to travel effectively from one place to the another, or ‘locative’ services that allow users to find people or places of interest close by them.  However, the systems sustain a technological and temporal determinism to show users in maps of the present as though they should feel that they are navigating a simulacrum of ‘actual’ space.

Walking Through Time is a JISC funded project to develop a smart phone based application that allows people to not to be located in the ‘now’, but instead in the past. Upon launching the phone application, users are able to find themselves in ‘present’ space, but by selecting from a series of historical maps they suddenly find themselves in a map of the same area but 150 years earlier (for example). The software then allows users to follow streets and walk through walls that have since been transformed through urban re-development.

The investigators are interested in the sense of identification that users have expressed as they identify themselves as the ‘blue dot’ on the screen that is able to ‘walk’ on a historical map as though it was laid beneath their feet across ‘present’ space. And the realisations that occur as they correlate representations of historical space (maps) with a cities spaces of historical representation (architectures of the past).

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